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Yule Logs By Various Characters: 7891

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

"'I thought I heard the general say,

Strike your tents at break of day;

Strike your tents and march away,

March, march away!'"

sang, or rather shouted, Lieutenant Patrick Cantillon of the light company, as he burst into our quarters one hot afternoon, a few weeks subsequent to my adventure on the convent road.

"Tom, ye lazy divil! is it sleepin' ye are?" And he caught me a whack on the shoulder that nearly knocked me out of my chair.

"Don't make such a confounded row, Paddy!" I exclaimed irritably; for I had been indulging in a siesta, and this "rude awakening" startled me not a little. "Why the deuce can't you come in quietly?"

"Come in quietly, bedad!-hark to him!" cried my brother sub, capering round the room. "Sure, man, am I not ready to jump out of me skin!"

"Then I wish you'd jump out of it somewhere else," I retorted. "What's the matter with you?"

"Listen while I tell ye, alannah," said Paddy, coming to an anchor on my camp-bed. "May-be ye know that some six years ago we kicked the French out of Egypt, and put the Turks in possession of Alexandria and other towns on the Egyptian coast. Now Boney has humbugged the Sultan to enter into an alliance with France; so our Government-more power to its elbow!-has decided to send an expedition to turn the Turks out of the very places we turned them into; in short, we're goin' to punish the haythins for havin' the impudence to hobnob and make friends with the French."

"And are we to join this expedition, Paddy?" I asked.

"We are, me son," was the reply.

Paddy Cantillon's news proved to be true. Orders had already been issued for an expedition to be fitted out in Sicily, for the purpose of making a descent on the coast of Egypt, and occupying Alexandria and Rosetta, and the same evening it was officially notified that the 35th would be one of the regiments employed on this service.

The expedition sailed from Sicily on the 6th March. The military force was under Major-General Mackenzie Fraser, and consisted of the 20th Light Dragoons,[1] a detachment of artillery, the 31st, 35th, 78th, and De Rolle's regiments, and the Chasseurs Britanniques.[2] We encountered very bad weather shortly after putting to sea; nineteen sail parted company on the night of the 7th, and it was not until the 15th that we sighted the Arabs' Tower.

Before allowing the transports to approach within sight of the coast, our commodore (Captain Hallowell of the Apollo, 74) ran in-shore to obtain some information. Major Misset, the British resident at Alexandria, advised an immediate landing, assuring the commodore that the inhabitants were favourably disposed towards us, and inimical to the French; accordingly the transports were signalled to stand close in, as soon as the squadron anchored in the western harbour. A summons to surrender was then sent to the Turkish governor, which he promptly declined.

The weather was still very heavy, and a nasty sea was running; nevertheless our leaders decided to land an advanced party at once. This party, which included the light company of the 35th, numbered a thousand men, under command of Colonel John Oswald of the 35th.

We effected a landing without serious opposition, and next morning carried the western lines and forts, driving out the Turks and taking several guns. Meanwhile the castle of Aboukir having surrendered, the remainder of the transports stood in and anchored in the bay. Seeing that we meant business, the Governor of Alexandria capitulated on the 21st March, and we took possession of the city, harbour, and fortresses.

Thus far success had attended our arms; but we were now to meet with the first of those reverses which culminated in the disaster of El Hamet.

Our naval force having been augmented by the arrival of Sir John Duckworth's squadron from the Dardanelles, it was decided to attack Rosetta. On the 26th March, Major-General Wauchope, with the 31st

and Chasseurs Britanniques, marched against Rosetta, and occupied the heights of Abourmandour, which command that town. Rosetta is situated some five miles from a branch of the Nile, in a beautiful district covered with date, pomegranate, banana, and other trees. The town is surrounded by a low wall, and its streets are very narrow-in fact, mere lanes and alleys.

On the 28th, Wauchope entered Rosetta at the head of the 31st Regiment. Not a soul was astir, not a sound was heard, as our troops wended their way through the streets towards the market-place in the centre of the town; but they had barely got half-way when the death-like silence was broken by a furious fusillade. From the windows and roof of every house a deadly fire was poured upon them. Cooped up in the narrow streets, unable to return the hidden enemy's fire, our gallant fellows fell fast. Wauchope was shot dead, his second-in-command seriously wounded, and in a short time nearly three hundred officers and men were placed hors de combat. There was no alternative but a retreat, and so the remnants of Wauchope's force returned to Alexandria.

Though not a little disconcerted by this serious and unexpected reverse, Fraser determined to make another attempt on Rosetta; indeed the reduction of that town was necessary to the safe possession of Alexandria, now threatened with famine.

The execution of this second attack was entrusted to Brigadier-General the Hon. William Stewart, with a force consisting of detachments of the 20th Light Dragoons and Royal Artillery, the 35th, 78th Highlanders, De Rolle's Regiment, and two hundred sailors from the fleet.

We quitted Alexandria, in the highest spirits, on the 5th April, and advanced towards Rosetta by way of the village and lake of Edko, where a dep?t was established. Before advancing to Abourmandour, Stewart considered it advisable to drive the enemy away from El Hamet-a village up the Nile, some two leagues above Rosetta-and take possession of the place, in order to secure his rear, and an uninterrupted communication with the dep?t on Lake Edko. This service was successfully accomplished on the 6th, and El Hamet was occupied by a strong detachment of De Rolle's, under Major Vogelsang.

On the following day the heights and fort of Abourmandour were reoccupied without opposition. A summons to surrender being contemptuously ignored by the Turkish commandant of Rosetta (who had been reinforced by a corps of Albanians), Stewart advanced to the sand-hills encircling the town, which he at once proceeded to invest.

From the great extent of Rosetta, our brigadier saw it would be impossible, with the slender force at his disposal, to invest more than half of the place; so he took up a line from the Nile to the front of the Alexandrian gate, thence retiring towards the plain, where he posted his light dragoons. Rosetta being thus only partially invested, its garrison had a free communication across the Nile to the Delta.

At this time Stewart confidently expected to be reinforced by the Mamelukes, from Upper Egypt, who were known to be inimical to the French, and at loggerheads with Mohammed Ali, but day after day passed without any appearance of these redoubtable warriors. The siege, however, was carried on with great vigour; our gunners hammered away at Rosetta, without doing any great harm to the Turks (whose numbers daily increased), while we of the infantry were constantly employed on piquet and other harassing duties. Our piquets and advanced posts were several times attacked, and on the 19th April a company of De Rolle's was surrounded and cut to pieces by the Turkish horsemen.


[1] The 20th Light Dragoons-raised as the Jamaica Light Horse in 1791, styled the 20th Light Dragoons in 1794, and disbanded in 1817.

[2] De Rolle's Regiment and the Chasseurs Britanniques-foreign corps in British pay. Both were disbanded or absorbed in 1814-15.

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